The National Security Agency has overstepped their legal authority and broken privacy rules “thousands of times each year” since 2008, reports Bart Gellman of The Washington Post.
Top secret documents and an internal audit leaked from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreigners inside the United States. Both are restricted practices.
Some of the infractions can be as simple as an analyst making a typo, but others include unauthorized access to signals intercepts, and worse.
We’ve paraphrased some of the big points:
- The official NSA audit from May 2012 found 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months, including access to or distribution of legally protected communications, and unauthorized collection.
- One case found the FISA court, which oversees surveillance operations, did not learn about a new method of intelligence collection until many months after it was put in place.
- Despite NSA quadrupling the number of oversight staff after some significant violations in 2009, the oversteps still increased throughout 2011 and 2012.
- A Feb. 2012 incident found unlawful retention of more than 3000 files the FISA court ordered the NSA to destroy.
The new report throws cold water on a statement made by President Obama’s on August 9:
“What you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails,” Obama said from the East Room of the White House. “What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.”
The new documents provide even more evidence that there have been abuses, and confirms that the NSA’s databases hold a lot of information on American citizens.
“The large number of database query incidents, which involve previously collected communications, confirms long-standing suspicions that the NSA’s vast data banks — with code names such as MARINA, PINWALE and XKEYSCORE — house a considerable volume of information about Americans.”